Job 40-42

Job 40-42…The wisdom of the book of Job.

In chapter 40, God says to Job finally, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it” (v. 2). Now, Job’s response is not one of defiant demand for answers to his misery. Rather he says, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (vv. 4–5). And again God picks up the interrogation and goes even more deeply in the rapid fire interrogation that shows the overwhelming contrast between the power of God, who is known in Job as El Shaddai, and the contrasting impotence of Job. Finally, Job confesses that such things were too wonderful. He says, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:5–6).

What is noteworthy in this drama, is that God never directly answers Job’s questions. He doesn’t say, “Job, the reason you have suffered is for this or for that.” Rather, what God does in the mystery of the iniquity of such profound suffering, is that He answers Job with Himself. This is the wisdom that answers the question of suffering — not the answer to why I have to suffer in a particular way, in a particular time, and in a particular circumstance, but wherein does my hope rest in the midst of suffering.

The answer to that comes clearly from the wisdom of the book of Job that agrees with the other premises of the wisdom literature: the fear of the Lord, awe and reverence before God, is the beginning of wisdom. And when we are befuddled and confused by things that we cannot understand in this world, we look not for specific answers always to specific questions, but we look to know God in His holiness, in His righteousness, in His justice, and in His mercy. Therein is the wisdom that is found in the book of Job.

Job 37-39

Job 37-39…God interrogates Job.

When Job finally gets the audience with the Lord that he requested, he’s not the one asking the questions! Instead, like a prosecuting attorney, the Lord fires off the questions and informs Job, “You will answer me” (38:3). God challenges Job’s insinuation that He wasn’t administering justice fairly. This interrogation covers Job 38 and 39, but it could be paraphrased in this one penetrating question: “Were you present at creation?” (38:4). Of course, Job wasn’t. Therefore, Job isn’t in a position to accuse the Lord of being unjust or unloving.

To be fair, Job has had a few moments of brilliance in understanding God’s wisdom and perfection. But he’s also slipped into pride because he’d judged the Lord solely based on what he could see. He had failed to consider that there was more to the picture than what met his own eyes or came from his own understanding.

As we near the end of the book of Job, it’s a good idea to review some key points. Job is rebuked by the Lord, not because of some rebellious sin, but rather because he was unwilling to let God govern the universe as God sees fit. This is something that all of us must learn. Like Job, sincere followers of the Lord may encounter pain and suffering for no apparent reason. But like Job, we must realize that a trusting submission to God’s greater purpose is required.

Job 32-36

Job 32-36…God retains final control of His creation.

This is the point that Elihu makes in the conclusion of his speech. At last, we find some softening in his words, although his presumptuous claim that God has spoken directly to him implies that God hasn’t spoken to Job or the other three.

We find increased sensitivity toward Job as Elihu acknowledges that the afflicted need not necessarily be sinful. Thus Elihu also introduces a whole new idea by stating that God does not just give affliction as punishment, but that he “woos” the afflicted and heals them. For the first time, the idea is presented that God is compassionate and brings people into a new understanding of the world through suffering that heals.

Although Elihu may have started off a bit arrogant in the first part of his speech, he certainly ends it on a glorious note. The second part of today’s reading focuses on the sheer wonder of who God is. To illustrate God’s wonder, Elihu offers a marvelous description of a mighty thunderstorm, in which the deafening sounds of thunder appear as God’s voice. At such a display, Elihu can only marvel. The point of this weather lesson is to show that God is in complete control. The series of questions that follow show that Job is not!

As we noted, Elihu’s speech has shifted the discussion’s focus. Job’s first three friends looked for reasons to explain his suffering, hoping to find some hidden sin in Job. But Elihu begins to look upward, anticipating what God might be doing. He doesn’t ask “Why?” but “What?” . . . “What

Job 26-31

Job 26-31…Yearning for God.

The story of Martin Luther is one of the most inspiring in history. After nearly being struck by lightning, Luther entered a monastery in 1508, hoping to find a deeper relationship with God. But over the next few years, despite all Luther’s efforts, he felt that God was not only distant, but that His wrath burned against Luther. Unable to meet the demands of the Mosaic law, Luther finally came to the realization that salvation was possible only through faith in Jesus Christ.

In today’s passage, we find a similar yearning for God. Job laments that he can’t find God, and his complaint remains bitter. Despite all the words that have passed between Job and his friends, Job has not given up his conviction that his only hope is to be heard before God. Although Job has said some harsh things about God and although he now believes that God is difficult to find, Job retains his steadfast belief that a righteous man can ultimately find justice with God.

More importantly, Job recognizes that God knows the truth about his life, and that He is purifying Job by using this trial. Here Job articulates one possible divine purpose for suffering, namely, the testing of our faith and our sanctification. Still, Job is unafraid to admit that in the meantime, God seems to have His hand against Job, which makes him faint of heart. Job implies that if God can be found, it must be a gift.

Job’s bold declaration about the path that he has followed is a powerful example for all believers. Despite his trials, Job has maintained three practices that are vital for the life of a believer. First, he has continued to follow God’s ways: he has not forsaken the Lord as Satan had predicted, and he has not sought the counsel of unbelievers. Instead, he has continued to walk steadfastly with the Lord. Second, Job has kept God’s commands. Third, Job has continued to treasure God’s Word in his heart.

Job 23-25

Job 23-25…Pursuing the Lord in trials.

In these chapters, Job laments that he can’t find God, and his complaint remains bitter. Despite all the words that have passed between Job and his friends, Job has not given up his conviction that his only hope is to be heard before God. Although Job has said some harsh things about God and although he now believes that God is difficult to find, Job retains his steadfast belief that a righteous man can ultimately find justice with God.

More importantly, Job recognizes that God knows the truth about his life, and that He is purifying Job by using this trial. Here Job articulates one possible divine purpose for suffering, namely, the testing of our faith and our sanctification. Still, Job is unafraid to admit that in the meantime, God seems to have His hand against Job, which makes him faint of heart. Job implies that if God can be found, it must be a gift.

Job’s bold declaration about the path that he has followed is a powerful example for all believers. Despite his trials, Job has maintained three practices that are vital for the life of a believer. First, he has continued to follow God’s ways: he has not forsaken the Lord as Satan had predicted, and he has not sought the counsel of unbelievers. Instead, he has continued to walk steadfastly with the Lord. Second, Job has kept God’s commands. Third, Job has continued to treasure God’s Word in his heart.

Job 19-22

Job 19-22…Why is this world broken?

Why is there evil in the world? Related to this is the question of why the wicked seem to get away with their wrongdoing. There’s no easy answer to this problem, and this fact forms the basis of Job’s reply to round two of his friends’ speeches. In this speech, for the first time, Job does not address the Lord, but instead counters his friends’ claims. This speech is also much less emotional.

The biggest problem with retribution theology, Job begins, is that it doesn’t really explain the ways of the world. As he looks around, he finds numerous examples of the wicked prospering. They grow old, they are safe, and they are successful. What’s more, they die happy, even though they deny God. The picture that Job paints here is similar to the one that Eliphaz drew of the good man, so it may be that Job intends a deliberate contrast. Ironically, Job’s friends have accused him of opposing God by challenging His ways, but it is they themselves who have been, in essence, telling God how the world should be run.

The book of Job doesn’t answer the problem of evil. We need to look elsewhere in Scripture to consider various aspects of this difficult question. Psalm 73 is a good place to start. Here the psalmist considers the apparent success of the wicked and wonders if he has been faithful in vain. The turning point comes in v. 17, where the psalmist begins to understand the final destiny of the wicked beyond this life. Then his heart is encouraged, as he considers his own eternal destiny with the Lord.

Job 19-21

Job 19-21…Why is this world broken?

Why is there evil in the world? Related to this is the question of why the wicked seem to get away with their wrongdoing. There’s no easy answer to this problem, and this fact forms the basis of Job’s reply to round two of his friends’ speeches. In this speech, for the first time, Job does not address the Lord, but instead counters his friends’ claims. This speech is also much less emotional.

The biggest problem with retribution theology, Job begins, is that it doesn’t really explain the ways of the world. As he looks around, he finds numerous examples of the wicked prospering. They grow old, they are safe, and they are successful. What’s more, they die happy, even though they deny God. The picture that Job paints here is similar to the one that Eliphaz drew of the good man, so it may be that Job intends a deliberate contrast. Ironically, Job’s friends have accused him of opposing God by challenging His ways, but it is they themselves who have been, in essence, telling God how the world should be run.

The book of Job doesn’t answer the problem of evil. We need to look elsewhere in Scripture to consider various aspects of this difficult question. Psalm 73 is a good place to start. Here the psalmist considers the apparent success of the wicked and wonders if he has been faithful in vain. The turning point comes in v. 17, where the psalmist begins to understand the final destiny of the wicked beyond this life. Then his heart is encouraged, as he considers his own eternal destiny with the Lord.

Job 16-18

Job 16-18…Turning to God

Today’s passage contains part of Job’s fifth speech. In the opening section (16:1–17), Job expresses his exasperation with his friends. He questions what kind of comforters they really are (16:4–6). We also find another honest expression of Job’s anger with God when he falsely accuses the Lord of turning him over to wicked men (16:11).

In the first part of today’s passage (16:18–17:2), Job implores the earth to avenge his suffering. In the cosmic courtroom, Job recognizes that creation bears witness to human actions. More importantly, Job realizes that the only one who can defend his case is to be found in heaven. The Hebrew word that translates as witness (v. 19) refers to one who knows the innocence of the accused and who will see that justice is done.

There is considerable debate concerning the Hebrew text in verse 20, which could either refer positively to God or negatively to Job’s friends. Either way, we see Job’s confidence that he would ultimately find justice, if not in this life, then beyond it. Despite the fact that his friends misunderstand him (17:3–12), implicit in Job’s words is his understanding that God is the One to whom he must turn.

Job 13-15

Job 13-15…God is sovereign over losses.

Sometimes even well-intentioned Christians can hold simplistic views of God. For example, we might hear a sports star claim after an upset victory that he had prayed and knew that the Lord would give him victory. Now it’s entirely right to give God the glory, but the implication here is that God’s answer could only have been victory. What if defeat had been part of the divine plan?

This is an important point to ponder. Job’s friends were no doubt well-intentioned, but they had a rather simplistic theology. For them, it wasn’t possible both to be in God’s will and experience suffering. Consequently, they ended up being judgmental of those who suffered.

Today’s passage is actually the middle section of a long speech by Job. In the first part (Job 12), he replies to Zophar, in essence, saying, “Tell me something that I don’t already know!” Job knew that God’s wisdom was beyond comprehension. And he knew that repentance was the answer to sin. But he also knew that life was much more complicated than his friends were willing to admit. Their heartless response to his suffering provokes some rather sharp accusations (Job 13:4–12). If they were experiencing what he was, how would they fare?

Despite his friends’ claims, Job knows that he is not sinless (v. 23), but he doesn’t believe that his sin merits his suffering. Job realizes that a truly godless man would have no confidence to come before God (v. 16). Yet, though God may slay him, Job realizes that he has nowhere else to turn.

So again, Job comes before the Lord and asks for a fair hearing (vv. 20–28). These verses reveal how isolated Job feels from God. Whereas he once enjoyed fellowship, he now feels as if God has become his enemy.

In his current state, Job once again laments the frailty of his humanity. But for the first time, we find a glimmer of hope (Job 14:15–17). Job is beginning to envision a time when he will be restored to God. This is his first glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.

Job 7-12

Job 7-12…Zophar

Job gets advice from a number of friends, but Zophar is the most critical in his approach. He tries to lock Job into the same system as his friends, namely that suffering comes from sin, so the solution must be repentance. We see this logic three times: from Eliphaz (5:17), from Bildad (8:20), and from Zophar (11:14).

In the first part of his speech, Zophar dismisses Job’s words as idle chatter. He can’t hear Job’s anguished cries in the context of despair, but rather focuses only on Job’s bold outbursts and questions. He accuses Job of being self-righteous and mistakenly charges Job of claiming to be flawless and pure before God. Yet neither of these claims can be found in Job’s earlier speeches. Zophar prays that God would rebuke Job. At the end of Job, this is exactly what happens, but Zophar and his two companions are also roundly rebuked as well!

Much of what Zophar says is doctrinally correct, but he lacks compassion. He has heard Job’s words, but not his heart. Part of what may be motivating Job’s friends is their own fears: if suffering comes from sin, then maybe they can avoid suffering if they avoid sin. But Job’s situation is much deeper than that, and the logic that suffering in this life comes directly as a result of specific sins we’ve committed is simply false.